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Local student prepares for statewide science fair

REIDSVILLE, N.C. -- Science isn't everybody's favorite subject, but eighth-grader Elisha Velazquez loves it.

He’s a student at Reidsville Middle. Since the third grade, Velazquez has been participating in science competitions for fun.

“I love the subject, it’s my favorite,” Velazquez said. “Right now, I want to be a mechanical engineer when I grow up.”

For the first time, he’s headed to the North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair next month, where he’ll put his science project up against other ones done by kids from across the state.

In order for students to attend the statewide science competition, they have to win at their school, then in their school district and then in their region. Velazquez is the only middle school student in the Rockingham County school system who made it to the state competition.

“I hope I win next month,” Velazquez said.

If Velazquez wins at the state level, he'll compete in the national competition, Intel ISEF, which could lead to scholarship opportunities.

Velazquez’s science project is a unique Helio Tracker. Instead of people plugging into outlets to charge something, this machine -- made out of soda cans, solar panels and around-the-house products, uses the sun to absorb sunlight. The absorbed light is then transferred into power, where people can plug things into the device to get charged. The science behind the device is based off how a flower and the sun interact.

Katherine Singleton is a science teacher at Reidsville Middle. She is one of Velazquez's mentors.

“We are so proud of him. We know how hard he’s worked on this project,” Singleton said.

Singleton thinks it’s important for students to have an experience with a science fair. She says most schools in our state hold science fairs that kids can sign up for and some students will participate in one as a part of a class. While winners of school science fairs feed into the state and national science fairs, Singleton says students who don’t win walk away from the experience with a better understanding of the subject.

“These science projects they come up with help with problem solving and thinking things through,” Singleton said.

Velazquez says he took a different approach to solar energy and made a device that was his own. He sees the benefits his machine could have later down the road.

“It could help people have another option to get more power and maybe help them save money, eventually,” he said.